If you scroll through the various titles that make up the collection of movies known as the Universal Monsters collection, you can’t help but notice that the ladies get somewhat of a short shrift. Oh sure, the Bride Of Frankenstein is an undeniable classic that in many ways surpasses the original and Dracula’s Daughter was a fairly intriguing drama that saw the titular character struggle with depression and self-loathing as well as the unfightable urge to tap a vein and start draining a poor bastard. However, further attempts to “feminise” the other monsters didn’t go quite so well – The Invisible Woman dropped the whole thriller aspect entirely in order to be a goofy comedy and a She-Creature From The Black Lagoon was never even considered (also that’s probably a good thing…). However, what we’ll be focusing on here is the feeble attempt to add a woman’s touch to lycanthopy with She-Wolf Of London, a movie that confuses plot twists with simply flat out lying to its audience.
Phyllis Allenby is due to be married to her boyfriend, well to do barrister Barry Lanfield, and resides at the sizable Allenby Mansion under the eye of her aunt Martha, her cousin Carol and nosey servant woman Hannah, but as the wedding date creeps ever closer, a series of murders committed in a local park rocks the community.
As the victims (which include a small boy) all share the same unfortunate feature of having had their throats ripped out, the boffins at Scotland Yard start suggesting a werewolf as the culprit (Of course! It all fits!); but Inspector Pierce – not hampered by the idiocy that’s still running rampant in the beginning of the twentieth century – insists it has something to do with the mysterious woman seen prowling between Allenby mansion and the park.
At the news of this, Phyllis starts to lose her mind as for the past few mornings, whenever somebody has been killed, she’s been waking up to find soil on her dress and feet and dried blood on her fingers, which, to be honest, looks pretty damn bad. Unsurprisingly, Phyllus is utterly convinced that thanks to a curse on her bloodline, she blacks out at night, turns into a werewolf, wanders over to the park and shreds the larynx of the first person she finds who thinks it’s a good idea to be casually strolling around at three in the morning and her sanity rapidly starts to collapse faster than a sand castle at high tide.
However, Barry isn’t about to write his beloved off as a lycanthopic loony just yet and stakes out the mansion and the park in order to get to the bottom of things. Is Phyllis caught in the throes of a werewolf curse, or is something altogether more sinister occuring here instead?
So, before I go ahead and cull this particular wolf movie, I’m going to drop a spoiler warning because to really get under the elongated nails of this movie, you kind of have to expose its secrets a little.
Bluntly put, She-Wolf Of London is nothing more than a bald faced liar because despite the fact that the poster screams such fallacies as “HALF WOMAN-HALF MONSTER” and “NIGHT-CREEPING HORROR BLAZING A TRAIL OF BLOOD”, the movie doesn’t actually have a werewolf in it – she or otherwise. The film itself is a substandard mystery movie that plays like an Agatha Christie short story the author half-heartedly might have banged out after binging on some hash brownies. You know the kind of thing to expect, police officers with the IQ of a mildewy mop unable to stake out a single park, multiple scenes of hysterics from our tormented lead (played by June Lockhart, the mum from Lost In Space) as her sanity evaporates like a fart in the wind and a moment where the actual villain of the piece decides to monologue her entire plan with the bare minimum of prompting that directly leads to her ultimate downfall.
Yes, you could give the movie the odd extra point or two for trying something different, but sometimes you just want a werewolf in your werewolf movie, goddammit; and what we get in exchange simply isn’t interesting (or certainly hairy) enough.
Maybe it’s the fault of the filmmakers, thinking that there was a chance of censors or audience think that a woman sprouting hairs on her face and drooling through fangs would just be unseemly, or maybe they thought they were just being original (real talk: it wasn’t), but the half-assed whodunit mixed with a suspicious lack of growling and clawing just seems lazy and cheap.
The really annoying thing is how easy it would have been to add a howling wolf monster with only a couple of minor adjustments to the plot. Have the movie play exactly the same way, but instead of the Aunt murdering people in order to make her niece go crazy and think she’s a werewolf, have the Aunt actually be a werewolf going around murdering people but who’s trying to make her niece crazy in order to take the blame. The endgame would be pretty much the same and the lame finale of the murdering Aunt simply tripping down the stairs and impaling herself on her own knife would be mafe vastly more interesting – plus the image of a woman wandering around at night in a dress a veil, who lifts it to reveal the face of a slathering she-wolf, would be one for the freaking ages.
However, as it stands, what we got instead is slow, derivative and somehow is barely enough to fill the meager sixty minute run time, She-Wolf Of London may actually be the least of the entire Universal Monsters cannon and all because they didn’t have the balls to feature a woman with hairy-ass legs….